Infidelity is very common and a good portion of my practice consists of people coming to see me after discovering there has been an extramarital relationship. The question is why? I am going to give my best partial answer, partial because it is such a big question and I as well as other experts in the field can write volumes on this question. However, for the purpose of this brief writing, I will list these 5 IMPORTANT reasons:
1) It is only in our recent marriage history that we have such higher expectations of our committed relationships. The purpose of couplehood has shifted from survival to financial, home management and parental management to –Let’s have all that plus passion, sex and great communication.
2) We use infidelity as an emotional regulation strategy. Please see other of my blogs that discuss the different factors of infidelity such as affirmation, acting out anger, fear of abandonment (not putting all our eggs in one basket in case the basket falls), etc.
3) People generally are reactionary and wait too long to come in for help instead of attending to relationship problems early.
4) Some people are developmentally too immature for solving interpersonal problems in ways that work for both partners.
5) The old rules of monogamy don’t work very well. They are set up so that couples cannot communicate their tough feelings such as natural healthy ambivalence about being in a committed relationship, natural attraction towards other people, their secret sexual fantasies, etc.
Each of these 5 reasons can usually be remedied with good relationship counseling with a qualified therapist. It actually is possible to have all that I mentioned in Reason # 1. We can learn how to manage our emotions more effectively. We can learn how to tune in earlier to our emotional, physical and relationship symptoms to prevent more crises such as infidelity. Almost all of us can “grow up” and learn how to take care of ourselves while simultaneously taking care of our partner. Lastly, we can learn how to open up our marriage (I am not talking about open marriage or polygamy), so that there is more permission for both people to discover and express their emotional and sexual selves.